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Children’s Commissioner calls for clarity over dangerous concrete in schools

05 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Rocio Cifuentes, Children’s Commissioner for Wales

Emily Price

The Children’s Commissioner has accused the Welsh Government of playing a “blame game” and has called for clarity on the issue of dangerous concrete currently been investigated in Welsh schools.

Rocio Cifuentes’ comments came following the announcement yesterday that Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) had been discovered in Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi in Anglesey.

The material which was used in construction in many buildings between the 1960s and 1990s is now beyond its lifespan and could collapse without notice.

Its presence has been confirmed in a range of public sector properties across the UK including in over 100 schools in England.

In a statement released on Monday (September 4) Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language said the Welsh Government had “repeatedly requested” details from the UK Government regarding RAAC risks and management but those details were withheld until the day before the new school term.

The education minister said that the evidence that was provided was “incomplete”.

UK Government Ministers had stated that a number of incidents regarding RAAC had happened over the summer period which led to there being a heightened safety risk.

However, the Welsh Government have claimed that at no point was this new evidence flagged to them.

The Children’s Commissioner said the statement did not provide clarity for families or provide information on the next steps for parents and pupils “in a way that is easy to understand”.

She added that families don’t need to hear a “blame game” and that “reassurance” should have been provided.

Anxiety

Rocio Cifuentes MBE said: “This situation has the potential to cause significant anxiety to children and their parents, which is why I wrote urgently to the Education Minister last week (1st September) to seek clarity on the position in Wales.

“In my correspondence, I asked the Welsh Government to issue urgent updates and provide reassurance on how this issue will be dealt with in Wales. Welsh Government must ensure that any impact on affected children’s education is mitigated, and they must provide regular and clear messages to keep families informed as this issue develops over the coming days and weeks.

“Statements issued by the minister so far don’t give families the clarity they need on what this means for them or the next steps for their school, in a way that is easy to understand.

“What children and their families need to hear is not a blame game but details of the extent of the problem, what exactly will happen over the next few weeks and reassurance that schools are safe. It is unacceptable that this situation has been allowed to develop to the point of disrupting children’s education and causing worry to families.”

In a statement Jeremy Miles said: “We continue to request detailed structural engineer reports that clearly set out the timeline and technical analysis of events leading up to last Thursday’s announcement of school closures.

“This can then be reviewed by officials and shared with local authorities who have statutory responsibility for school buildings in Wales.

“While only partial, the new evidence indicates that there may need to be a change in the approach towards how RAAC safety is undertaken and the health and safety management approach we may need to take.”

Further surveys will take place by local authorities across Wales in the coming weeks to verify the extent of the issue.

Mr Miles added: “We expect to have the results of that within the next two weeks. Upon receipt of this information we will engage with specialist structural engineers to work at pace with local authorities and further education institutions in Wales in undertaking urgent appraisal of any newly identified instances as to the presence of RAAC in education buildings. We anticipate completion of this work by the end of December.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago

Bang to rights…Mr Miles not ‘bovvered’ in the slightest…time for two new brooms…in health and education…

STEPHEN DANIEL
STEPHEN DANIEL
7 months ago

The Children’s Commissioner’s comment that Jeremy Miles was playing a ‘blame game’ seemed to me to amount, perhaps inadvertently, to her dipping her toe in the politics of this issue while purporting to be above such considerations. Of course the safety of children and staff is the paramount consideration but if, as the Welsh Education Minister insists, the UK Government has for some time had in its possession information suggesting that the risk associated with RAAC is greater than previously thought but has not shared that information with the Welsh Government, this is surely a perfectly reasonable point to make… Read more »

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